Goodbye Grissom: Losing A Man With A Real Grip

By Ray Ratto
Updated: August 3, 2005

Marquis Grissom;

Marquis Grissom

SAN FRANCISCO — On the day after Rafael Palmeiro modified an earlier lie with a new and less believable one, on the day that Ryan Franklin had no idea why he was being suspended, and on the day Deion Sanders said he was being tested for steroids on a weekly basis while his employers said he wasn’t, Marquis Grissom was designated for assignment by the Giants.

So with all due respect for the parade of reprobates, miscreants and hypocrites that makes sports the ongoing piefight it is, let’s follow Grissom on his way out.

After all, you can’t fully appreciate the amoral, the venal and the utterly hateful unless you have the proud, the dignified and the utterly sensible against which to compare them.

And, to be honest, the air was getting a little thick with particulate nonsense lately, so a little Grissom couldn’t hurt as a change of pace.

Grissom was waived because he is 38, he’s been hurt, and the Giants decided they need Jason Ellison more. The Giants, who won’t be having a day for him as they did Robb Nen but should, offered him a chance to go on the disabled list rather than be sent to the knackers yard, but he politely declined, thinking that three trips to the DL in one year might sour other potential employers.

In other words, Grissom went out just the way you figured he would — reminding us that some folks in this business don’t have the time, energy or sense of dignity to behave like a self-absorbed, over-indulged, ill-mannered lout.

Consider how he chose to go out, for example — in an impromptu gathering around his locker rather than at a podium or, more laughably, through his own Web site.

“You look at what the team went through this year,” he said. “I’m 38 and I’ve been hurt with injuries. I understand what this team has been through. There are no hard feelings. No excuses. I didn’t get the job done whether I was hurt or not. People are paying you, and they want you to produce.”

What? No bitching? No complaining? No “I have no idea how I tested positive for that .212 average?”

Nope. A simple, clear-headed assessment of the facts, without blame delegation or alibi weaving. Simple, pure Grissom.

Instead, he took his leave of the clubhouse while joking with teammates in his street clothes.

“Why be sad?” Grissom said. “I’m not sad about anything. I’ll be fine.”

And did we mention perspective?

It’s actually a bit embarrassing to make such a to-do of what ought to be standard behavior, but such is the nature of fame, money and entitlement that exits like Grissom’s — nay, men like Grissom — stand out so starkly. There are more people like him in sports, but they tend to get lost amid the brazen misbehaviors of his contemporaries and the hysterical judgments of media popinjays.

“Marquis is probably one of the top 10 teammates I’ve had playing with the Giants,” first baseman J.T. Snow told Our Team’s H. Perry Schulman. “He’s a class act. He played the game for the right reasons. He’s the reason I wear my pants up around my knees. It’s a tribute to him. He’s had a great career. He’s done a lot of good things in the game, and he’s a better person off the field and in the clubhouse than he ever was on the field. Unfortunately, this game takes a toll on your body. I hope he can catch on with somebody and help them get over the hump and into the postseason.”

Now there won’t be any Marquis Grissom Hall of Fame phone polls, or even any “What took them so long?” calls to overnight sports chat shows from some insomniac chowderhead in TooFarForEvenGodToVisit, Nebraska. He’ll find someone who needs him to play for them, or he won’t, and either way, he’ll know that he didn’t waste his 16 years in the big leagues or the two and change before that thinking of ways to grouse about having everything.

The Florida A&M product did his job. He did it well. He did not complain about things that weren’t unfair, and he stood up when he needed to. He was the kind of player every team should have, and the kind of player who is too often overlooked when he is in town partially because of those very attributes.

“It was very hard (to designated him),” manager Felipe Alou said. “But that’s the kind of year it is, that we have to let go of a man like that.”

In fact, the year the Giants have had has had almost nothing to do with Grissom’s departure. As he all but said himself, eventually time just beats you down whether you want it to or not.

But even beset by the bastard truths of age and infirmity, Marquis Grissom still soared on his way out the door simply because he wouldn’t go any other way. Whatever might be the Giants’ ultimate fate in this Benny Hill marathon of a divisional race, they are already the poorer for his departure.